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Harper’s publisher: Buruma firing a ‘catastrophe’

‘It is a serious threat to freedom of expression and the ability to publish and write independently’

September 21, 2018

5:08 PM

21 September 2018

5:08 PM

Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur has described the end of Ian Buruma’s tenure as New York Review of Books editor as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘a catastrophe’

New York’s literary crowd has been reeling since news broke about the Dutch journalist’s resignation – or dismissal.

Buruma claims his position became untenable after a ferocious backlash from an article he published by a disgraced Canadian radio personality. The author, Jian Ghomeshi, was acquitted of all but one charge, which was settled with an apology and a peace bond. Our very own Toby Young described Buruma as a victim of ‘sexual McCarthyism’.

Now, in the latest Americano podcast, Freddy Gray speaks to Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur about the scandal and what is happening in the culture of left-of-centre American publications.

Harper’s, remember, published an article by John Hockenberry, a former NPR host who lost his job due to harassment allegations surfaced as part of the #MeToo movement. MacArthur leaps to Ian Burema’s defence:

‘We published an excerpt from The Satanic Verses, we published the Danish satirical caricatures of Muhammad, we’ve done a lot of things that put us at risk, I think physically, and so I’m a little bit alarmed to see my colleagues caving in so quickly to a Twitter mob, essentially, an amorphous, decontextualised Twitter mob, of people who are barely coherent. It’s not a joke, I don’t mean to be flippant about this, because it is a serious threat to freedom of expression and the ability to publish and write independently. The Buruma resignation, or firing, is a catastrophe for American democracy and freedom.

‘A lot of the #MeToo predators, including my writer Hockenberry, have been banished to the margins of society. Nobody’s saying they should go to jail, but they’re saying they really shouldn’t be able to function, or rehabilitate themselves or work in anything remotely connected to the jobs they used to hold.’

You can listen to the full interview below:


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